I’m not a Muslim, but after the arrival of the thousands stranded and abandoned at sea in June, the passing of Ramadan and the joyous Eid celebration among Muslims in Malaysia, I wonder if those desperate migrants and refugees towed in or washed up on our shores had any kind of celebration behind the barbed wire fences of Belantik Immigration Detention Center in Kedah, where they are housed. Many of them, Rohingya or Bangladeshi, are Muslims.
There was that split-second televised footage of migrants and refugees in Acheh, Indonesia, having wholesome meals dished out to them on plates by Indonesian folk. Yet, there seems a lack of any similar video footage of how those brought here are treated. Were they given good meals? Were the women, men and children given adequate facilities to live decently as human beings, even if this was a temporary one-year arrangement? Was anyone allowed to visit them, to share the joyous Eid celebration, in compassion and solidarity with these who had suffered so much?
It is the same every year, when Ramadan and Eid come round. The government bends backwards to publicize the preparation and sending of food parcels of goodies to the security forces, hold annual charity distributions for Muslim orphanages, old folks homes and some disabled schools and homes. Such charity should be an all year occurrence for all communities, not just an annual remembrance of the under-privileged. Yet, the media remains silent on whether those in prisons and other secure facilities have a chance to celebrate their religious holidays. After all, they are also human beings with the ability to forgive and be forgiven.
Those in immigration detention usually have no documents and that would be their only contravention of Malaysian immigration law. Why are they being criminalized for simply being here willingly or unwillingly?
Too often, the government warns that, “There will be no forgiveness” for one thing or another. Is it in the government’s power to dictate, what only God may decide? To my mind, it works both ways, an unforgiving government, shall not be forgiven. A remorseless person will find no peace, and a spinner of tales will always need to prove his/her tall stories.
To me, a non-Muslim, greeting my Muslim friends on this Eid celebration with words that speak of forgiveness and reconciliation, such unforgiving statements coming from Muslim government ministers, robs their public greetings at the sumptuous banquets and open houses, of sincerity.
However, even among ordinary Malaysian Muslims, this Eid celebration was somewhat quieter than in past years. We’re all feeling the pinch of the continuing tumble of our economy, rocketing cost of living and increasing restriction of our fundamental freedoms. For how long will these dreary circumstances persist?
We have to realize that unkindness has its repercussions, being unkind to our fellow human beings is being unkind to ourselves. So, do unto others as you would have others do unto you.